View from the otherside of the Background Investigator credentials

Here is my humorous (yet generally true) outline of events from the investigator’s point of view that I previously posted in another forum. If people would only read this BEFORE they entered their data into E-QIP…

The typical BI case.

The Subject: You grew up and left home shortly after graduating from high school. You went to college, sometimes two different colleges, before graduating. You racked up student loan debt, worked several part-time jobs, some for only one or two days, and you did work study during different semesters. You had a few speeding tickets and one minor in possession of alcohol while at school. You lived in the dormitory for a year, and then bounced around every semester to different addresses looking for cheaper rent while in school. You are a US citizen. You hung around with people whom you only knew by their first names and dropped contact with most of your old friends from home.

You get a great federal job offer in your college specialty and it is time to become a federal employee. You require an T-5 investigation.

The agency which is going to hire you helps you fill out the SF 86 in preparation for your E-QIP by sending you a one or two page “cheat sheet” then tell you that you’ll have to fill out the form on-line. The agency does not provide any other support because the task is given as an additional duty to a new HR person. You have five days to finish the E-QIP.

You get your invite from OPM to enter E-QIP and you start filling out the form on-line without preparing a written copy. You forget to send in your fingerprint cards and paperwork to OPM within the required time limits because you misunderstood the instructions or only had them provided in a letter. You have to battle with OPM via email a few times until your E-QIP meets the “minimum acceptance standards” for investigations.

The E-QIP entry and the mailed documents arrive at OPM’s processing center the same day and the next day. If your fingerprints cards are readable, your agency is notified that your package was accepted by OPM.

Your case is processed and scheduled that day. The very next day the case is released to the field investigation, support center, and the various agencies involved with the T5. Your credit reports are pulled that day and entered into the OPM database.

The investigator is fairly current on assignments but has to juggle cases among several prioritization processes. They try to call you for your Subject interview appointment but the cell phone number provided was disconnected or the voicemail is full. The investigator attempts to contact you at work but no one answers the phone. A voice message is left. The investigator tries calling several times over the next three days, to include calling your listed supervisor, (who turns out to be a coworker freaked out that an investigator is calling for you and tries to “cover” for you). The investigator even tries a text message with no response. An attempt to contact you at home determines that you left the area for a short term job two days after you submitted your paperwork. The investigator initiates an Agency Location request (which the agency has ten days to respond.) for your location.

The investigator starts working on your case by going to your neighborhood. No one answered the door (although people were clearly inside) so door hangers requesting contact were left on all the neighbors’doors. The investigator tries again each day, visiting the neighborhood at different times of the day. The investigator finally finds the required number of neighbors needed to cover your residence*s), even though the neighbors have only seen you once or twice a week “in passing” and don’t know your name. The verifier you listed is an old family friend who has never visited any of your residences since you left the family home five years ago.

You return two to three weeks later and quickly call the investigator who, if you are lucky, can now schedule your interview the next day (in between the other case work). The Subject interview lasts over four hours because you forgot to list the work-study employments, the short term employments, your nicknames (all the law checks have to be redone), your school residences (you listed your parents’ address in a state different from the actual residences for the four years you were in school (hey! your parent’s address was your mailing address, right?). You also forgot to list verifiers for your employments, the reason for leaving each employment, and you used the same people for your verifiers that you listed for your references. Dates and locations between the employments, education, and residences do not match up. (I had one case where the subject claimed to work in the CONUS while his residence was in a US territory. Subject insisted it was correct until I pointed out that he had one heck of a commute each day to work and school.) Oh, two of the listed references are actually your parents’ friends which you listed because you perceived them to be more viable references than your actual friends/significant other. You can’t remember any of the supervisors or coworkers for the unlisted employments or the last names of your “friends” from college. You have the cell phone numbers but don’t know their current location and don’t contact them for their current address – even when asked.

You forgot to list your siblings’ full names (if they were listed). You also did not to list your step-parents and step-siblings because your parents remarried after you left the house and you don’t consider them family. You are asked to provide all the required details within five business days.

You take forever to discuss your MIP incident during the Subject interview. You tell the investigator, who has done this particular issue hundreds of times, conflicting information because you are afraid your story will reflect badly on you. This was the first time you ever drank alcohol. You drank alcohol because of peer pressure. You drank with “friends” (no names recalled), were cited by a police department (department not recalled), went to court (court location and dates not recalled), and paid a fine (amount and other actions not recalled).

Then you get angry when i announce “During the course of the investigation…” an d confront you with details different than you had told me, sometimes including the alcohol counseling you had to go through at the college.

Finally the Subject interview is completed and you are given “homework” to provide the names and addresses for the friends in your cell phone and other activities. The investigator asks you to provide the information within five business days.

The investigator is unable to interview your boss and a couple co-workers because they need to check with HR to see if they are allowed to talk about you for a Federal investigation. HR refuses access to your employment record until the lawyers can scrutinize the standard General Release form. (Believe it or not, at times this happens when the company is seeking a government contract that requires you to have the clearance! Then the company is upset when the FSO tells them, after a phone call from OPM, that they have to cooperate or lose their federal contract(s))…

That evening, the tired, but good investigator, sits down to schedule out the law checks, employments, and residential checks omitted from the original E-QIP/SF 86 before doing the time card and spending time with the family. (Reality is the investigator came home late and wanted to see what the family looked liked so the investigator locked up the case papers, which his family are not allowed to view in any manner, did the time card, and shut down for the night - waiting until the next day to schedule the missing items and delaying the case by an extra day.)

The scheduled items go through the database and sit in a district office until a record searcher and/or an investigator can be found to work the items. This assumes the information provided by memory and cell phone was correct. This is another story by itself, but can delay the case for 14 days while the newly scheduled items are worked into different investigators work schedules.

The investigator had another Subject interview scheduled that morning but went to your old college before lunch. The school provided the transcripts, work study employment, and other requested documents but the listed verifiers cannot be found (retired, moved on, and never worked there). The investigator is required to find sources to cover the time frame for education and work-study or exhaust a laundry list of actions before the item(s) can be noted out, to include asking you again for any leads, to cover the activity.

Meanwhile, your references who you listed as knowing you, even during college, had minimal contact with you since you left your parents, house. They have to be interviewed to fill in missing coverage, because you listed them as “People who know you well”.

Your parents’ neighbors did tell me the interesting story about you and your foreign college girlfriend – now I have to find more people to discuss your foreign associations.

You provide the information requested during the Subject interview about six days after the interview, but forget to provide the birthdates (which were requested) for the step-siblings. The investigator explains that the information is required and asks you to contact your parents for the information. I am not allowed to tell you the issues I have already discovered yet you want to know how quickly I can get the case completed. You really want this job!

That evening, the investigator types his report into the OPM database, where the investigator notes that only half the law checks were quickly returned by the local law enforcement agencies. Also, there are messages from other investigators working on the case about leads on a friends you forgot to mention or perhaps even developed issues. Mom’s neighbor, the one who thought your college girlfriend was from Eastern Europe also mentioned the juvenile diversion program for marijuana possession that you forgot to declare.

The ROI is reviewed by OPM review and sent back because the investigator is asked to contact you again for the missing step-siblings’ information, even though you previously told the investigator that you couldn’t get the information from your parents.

Once the law checks are completed ( anywhere from one day to three weeks (or more)) after the Subject interview investigator transmitted your ROI. The OPM reviewer reads the report the next day and schedules a triggered Subject interview (TESI) to discuss the missing marijuana possession and the unreported foreign association (and now you are tagged for dishonesty issues). Two hours of your day is gone after the TESI, five hours or more for me is lost forever.

The report, with TESI ROI, is reviewed the next morning after transmission by the OPM review staff, then forwarded to the requesting agency’s adjudication staff.

Average time turnaround for my part is 14 days, but does not count any of the work I had to schedule out to other areas. Your case goes into adjudication after all the field work is completed where the agency adjudicator has the option to reopen the case for more details on the marijuana (remember it wasn’t declared which creates honesty issue concerns) after your ROI sat on the adjudicator’s to-do pile for a few days. Now, the background investigator has to chase you down all over again for a Subject contact or another TESI.

Now, multiply this by 700,000 cases we are behind.


Great write up, and I can recall seeing this on the older forum! Some things never change.

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Scary how dead on this is, sounds like you’ve dealt with this a few hundred (thousand) times!

Just got assigned a TESI today on a Subject I interviewed over a year ago. An unlisted employment was found and now the case drags on.

Rinse and repeat.


Oh wow. You are scaring me for the job. I was missing some minor info. I am glad it wasn’t nearly as bad as whomever that person may be ! This was a good write up. Haha

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Golive - this person was not very bad - just typical.

Bad is when you are interviewing for a DoD contractor that has an active local court case for stealing from his employer and customers - and tries to deny he was every arrested for anything.


You’re kidding ! Come on !? Do people think they can get away with hiding something like that !?

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Post edited for editing of post


Please tell me this isnt what my life will be after I start as a Investigations Case Reviewer for CACI on Monday.


Welcome to the ninth circle of hell!


I’ve empathy but as I sit and pass day 538 on my SSBI/T5 my empathy has limits. There is a performance standard that NBIB is required to meet…and it’s not 538+. Perhaps those standards should be revisited because if they mean nothing why have have them.

I ask for and expect no empathy. I was trying to use humor to describe a process that is not clean and straightforward. We are dealing with humans - hundreds and thousands of humans - each having the chance to add to the “fog of investigation”.

Why are you on day 538? I don’t know. My area has a backlog but I am still working FY 17 and newer cases. You mention standards - standards that were artificially created by Congress in an attempt to speed up the process. There was no science or research to show that the process can clear someone for a TS within X days.

You can’t speed up the process by flogging the ship’s crews. If the ship is an old wooden cutter - it can only go so fast on the water. My boss has chimed in many times that we are using 1947 technology and standards to determine who can have a clearance… We need to look at the whole picture from top to bottom - starting with - who really needs those nifty TS/SCI clearances? Why do we have PRs on military folks that have severe disciplinary actions and are on their way out? Why do we allow people to apply for security clearances with the “hope” they will pass? Why do we continue to complete a case when serious disqualifying issues are discovered? Why do we insist that we speed up a process that is critical to security? What can we do to shake out the people that should not have a clearance quicker?

I wish I had the answer. I wish somebody had the answer on how to realistically sped up the process that is cost-effective and does not degrade security standards.


Agreed. “Standards” is a bit of a stretch. More like guidelines. Arbitrary, not backed by research or analysis. Hundreds of thousands of applicants who likely need some type of field work done, and across the country.

I’ve said it before: there’s two short term solutions–increase and retain personnel, and responsibly reduce fieldwork. Good luck with both.

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Don’t worry, it’s going to all get way better under DSS.



I was reading a DSS document, public domain, about how their failure with proposed technology, under funding the background investigation process (to include not hiring/replacing agents) and poor training created a 600,000 case backlog for DoD. The document was the prepared statement for a Congressional hearing from 2000, about the late 90s to 2000 period.

DoD is relying too heavily on the CE taking care of all their problems. The executive management at DoD have forgotten that you still need a field person to talk tot the neighbor/family/friend/boss to develop the issue that leads to the information source.

Just this last week, I had a case where the listed reference led me to an unreported alcohol arrest and additional misdemeanor arrests that were reportable. The law checks were done - but the arrest was from a neighboring entity, again.

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You know I really enjoy your stories. I know some of us on here want to hear more about the life of a background investigator. By the way I loved your last candidate.

LOL only 9th? in the Buddhist religion we are taught there are endless amounts of hell. I think my favorite hell has to be the ice hell.

Yes it is most definitely this bad

You contact your FSO about your long long wait?

It’s a federal civil service position with DHS OIG. There is no FSO but I’m in fairly constant contact with DHS OIG Security Office and the Human Resource Office (weekly check ups). I’ve outlasted two HR specialists and actually gone from a GS-11 position to landing a GS-12 position during the wait. I’ve interviewed for GS-13 positions as well so may get another “promotion”. If I was getting a signing bonus, maybe GS-5 pay during the wait, had some guarantee of back pay or perhaps a step increase due to the delay I would be less stressed. Heck even if I had some information or some idea of when it will end. The lack of details and nearly two year wait is not efficient use of government resources and takes a toll on future federal bureaucrats. Some most certainly aren’t going to show up to work happy to have waited and eager to contribute 100%. Some will be bitter potentially becoming insider threats themselves. Congress didn’t set the performance metric previous listed on the agency did in accordance the GPRA. NBIB took over a disaster but I’ve yet hear leadership admit its a disaster. The GAO report stated NBIB has no plan to address the backlog nor have a read anything put out by NBIB addressing the backlog. DSS could be a solution if they hire there own personnel not cannibalize NBIB. NBIB should be left whole to address its own case load while DSS is staffed up to support the needs of DODs case load.

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Are you currently a Fed?